Immigration and coronavirus headline Biden-Mexico counterpart talks
Published on: Wednesday, March 03, 2021
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US President Joe Biden (C), flanked by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas (R), meets virtually with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (on screen) at the White House in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden told his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Amlo) that Mexico’s success was crucial to the hemisphere and that he would view the US southern neighbour as an equal.

In a virtual summit to discuss immigration, Covid-19 and commercial issues, Biden opened talks by reminding Lopez Obrador of his four visits to Mexico as vice president.

“The United States and Mexico are stronger when we stand together,” Biden said at the beginning of their teleconference. But “we haven’t been perfect neighbours to each other.”

During the Obama-Biden administration, he continued, “we looked at Mexico as an equal. You are equal.”

Lopez Obrador thanked Biden for stressing a relationship based on mutual respect, and emphasised the two countries’ cultural, historic and trade ties.

“It is important for Mexico, and we must keep on cooperating for further development based on independence and autonomy, potentialising what our peoples mean to us,” he told the US leader.

It was Biden’s second bilateral meeting with a foreign leader since becoming president on January 20. The first was with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The talks came after four years of tumultuous US-Mexico relations under former president Donald Trump, who shut down the US border to migration, tore up the NAFTA trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada, and labelled Mexican immigrants drug traffickers and “rapists.”

Still, the flow of migrants and trade – legal and illegal – across the US-Mexican border was to be the focus of the summit.

Joining the call, were top diplomatic, security and immigration officials from both sides.  

The meeting came amid reports of a new surge of undocumented migrants attempting to enter the United States from Mexico and its southern neighbours, as Biden eases Trump’s tough anti-immigration regime.

In a joint statement after the call, the two sides agreed to work together on economic development efforts in impoverished southern Mexico and Central America, the source of most of the migrants.

They also agreed to work together to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, to boost economic cooperation, and to work together on climate change, the statement said.

The two countries share a porous, nearly 2,000-mile (3,200 kilometres) border, with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of commerce annually and large numbers of daily legal crossings by individuals.

But it also sees a huge level of illegal migrant crossing, hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers trying to enter the United States and large amounts of illicit drug trafficking from south to north.

“Both leaders recognised the many contributions of migrants to the economic strength, cultural diversity, and innovative spirit of the United States and Mexico,” the statement said.

They “committed to immigration policies that recognise the dignity of migrants and the imperative of orderly, safe, and regular migration.”

The statement said nothing specific about how cooperation on the coronavirus pandemic would proceed.

Mexico has one of the world’s highest death tolls from the pandemic, after the United States and Brazil, and desperately needs a larger supply of vaccines.

Asked ahead of the meeting if Washington would send vaccines to Mexico, Biden answered: “We’re going to talk about that.” 


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